Bloggers like me and other pundits go gaga over elections. We like to make intelligent predictions although I do suck at them. I go by feel. Not very scientific, I know.
Part of that feel is geared toward party preference. That is more prevalent in a general election, where in by-elections, I believe the feel is more toward the individual candidates themselves because there is more national media attention given to them, not their party leaders or campaign promises.
So I don't think anything should be read into or spun that these results were a real win or loss for Harper, Ignatieff, or Layton.
All three ridings were very well represented by capable, likable MPs. Inky Mark in Dauphin, Judy Wasylycia-Leis in Winnipeg North, and Mario Belaquavila (sp?) in Vaughan worked hard as they got reelected everytime they ran.
The real question in these by-elections is not whether the winning or losing party is on the up or downswing or a "test of leadership", it's simply whether or not their successors will gain the trust of the voters in their respective ridings and win again in a general election.
Beyond that, I'll go back to making sucky predictions.